Controversy brews as Moomin museum closes in Tampere

Curators in Tampere begin packing up artwork and memorabilia from the late artist and author Tove Jansson on Monday following the closure of the Moominvalley museum.

Image: Mihalis Kouloumpis / Yle

The museum has been located in the lower level of the city’s main Metso Library for a quarter of a century. It closed on Sunday to make way for a complete renovation of the iconic building.

Some 2,000 works are to be moved temporarily to the Tampere Art Museum, where a smaller exhibition opens in early January. However there won’t be room for all the items, so some will have to go into storage, while others will be sent off for conservation work.

The collection includes Jansson’s original sketches and watercolour illustrations for her 15 books featuring the Moomintroll family and their friends in the idyllic Moominvalley – books that are treasured by millions of adults and children around the world.

She wrote the original nine Moomin novels between 1945 and 1970, collaborating on a few picture books later. She also wrote about a dozen novels for adults, and illustrated another dozen or so books, including classics by Lewis Carroll and JRR Tolkien.

The exhibition also includes copies of her books in some 40 languages.

Unseen works to be shown next year

Like several of Jansson’s books, many of the works on display were collaborations with her long-time partner, the graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä, the model for the character Too-Ticki. Her brother, the acclaimed architect Reimä Pietilä, helped to build the first three-dimensional model of the whimsical Moominhouse. He also designed the Metso Library where the collection has been located

The show at the art museum will also feature some items that have never been shown in public before, says Elina Bonelius_, _curator of the museum.

“We’re looking forward to Tove Jansson’s centenary in 2014, when there will be a major exhibition of her work at the Ateneum Museum in Helsinki, as well as one in Japan. So we’ll be able to get the works on show,” Bonelius says.

Amusement park site "a violation"

The next permanent location for the Moominvalley collection remains in doubt. A committee set up by the mayor of Tampere has proposed two locations: Ratinanniemi and Onkiniemi.

Former Tampere Art Museum director Anneli Ilmonen, who arranged for Jansson and Pietilä to bequeath the collection to the city, has strongly opposed the idea of locating the new museum in Onkiniemi near the Särkänniemi amusement park.

“Tove and Tuulikki did not want the collection to become part of the silly commercial art and culture scene. And anyway, the Moomins were not originally aimed at children, but rather at adults,” Ilmonen notes.

Ilmonen says that placing Moominvalley adjacent to Särkänniemi – which is now known for its dolphin shows and Angry Birds rides – would violate the terms of the letter with which Jansson and Pietilä donated the priceless collection.

“It would certainly be a violation, because it would go against Tove’s and Tuulikki’s wishes. They never would have donated the collection if they had known what is now being planned.”

Jansson died in 2001, followed by Pietilä in 2009. In 1993, the Moomin World amusement park opened in Naantali, near Turku, based on the Japanese-animated Moomin TV show rather than directly on Jansson’s books.